FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Carmen Consuelo Cerezo, U.S. District
R. Gaztambide-Aneses, on brief for appellant.
I. Pearce, Attorney, Appellate Section, Criminal Division,
U.S. Department of Justice, Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant
Attorney General, Criminal Division, Sung-Hee Suh, Deputy
Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Wifredo A.
Ferrer, United States Attorney, Southern District of Florida,
H. Ron Davidson, Assistant United States Attorney, Charles R.
Walsh, Trial Attorney, Criminal Division, and Luke Cass,
Trial Attorney, Criminal Division, on brief for appellee.
Thompson, Kayatta, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
BARRON, Circuit Judge.
("Castrillón") led a large-scale fraudulent
financial scheme for five years. After the scheme came to an
end, she pleaded guilty to criminal charges, based on her
conduct during the course of the scheme. On appeal, she
contends that her sentence was substantively unreasonable. We
2010, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico
charged Castrillón and eight others with a variety of
criminal conduct. The first count charged all defendants with
conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Castrillón and various
co-defendants were also charged with eleven counts of wire
fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; fourteen counts
of bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344; and
four counts of money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1957(a). Finally, Castrillón alone was charged
with four counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A.
charges pertained to a fraudulent scheme that ran from April
2005 to March 2010. During that time, Castrillón and
her co-defendants falsely and fraudulently induced over
ninety people to provide Castrillón with funds
totaling more than five million dollars. Those funds
allegedly came from victims' savings and brokerage
accounts, loans provided by their family and friends, and
unsecured personal loans made by financial institutions.
to the pre-sentence investigation report (PSR) prepared by
the probation office prior to sentencing, the fraud operated
as follows. Castrillón would befriend an individual
and confide that she was the beneficiary of a Certificate of
Deposit or trust for a large amount of money that was either
pledged as collateral or frozen at a local bank.
Castrillón would tell the targeted individual that she
needed money to enable her to obtain the funds that she was
due as the beneficiary of the Certificate of Deposit or
trust, and that she would pay the targeted individual back
once she obtained her funds. Castrillón would often
induce her victims to take out bank loans and provide her
with the proceeds of those loans. Sometimes,
Castrillón also prepared fraudulent documents for the
targeted individuals to submit to banks, so that those
individuals could obtain loans and then give the resulting
funds to Castrillón. Castrillón also used
targeted individuals' personal information to obtain
loans or cash advances in their names and without their
knowledge. And, to help perpetuate the fraud,
Castrillón prevented targets from contacting law
enforcement by giving them lulling payments or by threatening
them with violence, criminal liability, or the loss of their
money. Overall, the fraud continued for five years.
grand jury indicted Castrillón in July 2010, and she
was arrested the next day. In December 2013,
Castrillón pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea
agreement, to two of the indictment's counts: one count
of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, and one count of
aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1028A. The District Court dismissed the remaining counts
against Castrillón on the government's motion.
plea agreement set forth sentencing recommendations based on
calculations made under the United States Sentencing
Guidelines. With respect to the conspiracy count, the
plea agreement calculated Castrillón's base
offense level as seven, U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(a)(1), and then
applied an eighteen-level enhancement based on the amount of
money lost, id. at § 2B1.1(b)(1)(J); a
four-level enhancement based on the number of victims who
suffered substantial financial hardship, id. at
§ 2B1.1(b)(2)(B); a four-level enhancement based on
Castrillón's role as a leader of the conspiracy,
id. at § 3B1.1(a); and a two-level reduction
based on Castrillón's acceptance of responsibility
for her actions, id. at § 3E1.1(a). The plea
agreement thus determined Castrillón's total
offense level to be 31. The plea agreement did not stipulate
a criminal history category for Castrillón. But, the
plea agreement did note that, assuming a criminal history
category of I (the lowest level), a total offense level of 31
corresponds to a guidelines sentencing range of 108-135
months' imprisonment. U.S.S.G. Ch. 5, Pt. A (Sentencing
aggravated identity theft count, the plea agreement relied on
a sentence prescribed by statute. Congress has mandated a
sentence of 24 months' imprisonment for aggravated
identity theft, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1), to run
consecutively with any other term of imprisonment,
id. at § 1028A(b). The plea agreement thus
recommended a total sentence of 132 months' imprisonment:
108 months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud
-- the low end of the guidelines range -- and 24 months for
aggravated identity theft.
sentencing, the District Court considered the PSR, which
recounted Castrillón's conduct in detail and made
recommendations concerning Castrillón's sentence.
With respect to the conspiracy count, the PSR's
calculation of the total offense level was identical to the
plea agreement's calculation, except in one respect: the
PSR found applicable a two-level enhancement based on the
vulnerability of Castrillón's victims, many of
whom were elderly and unsophisticated. U.S.S.G. §
3A1.1(b)(1). As a result, the PSR calculated a total offense
level of 33, rather than the plea agreement's total
offense level of 31. The PSR also determined that
Castrillón's criminal history category was II.
Based on these determinations, the PSR calculated a
guidelines sentencing range of 151-188 months'